The invention of the automobile is one of the
greatest technological achievements in human history.
Now, the automobile is meshing with another massive
disruption, the digital revolution, to once again completely
change society. Self-driving cars are coming; at SXSW,
Doug Newcomb, President of C3 Group, gave a 5-10 year
timeline for fully autonomous vehicles hitting our roads.
With the recent announcement of Mercedes’ incredibly
cool looking self-driving car, deprofessionalization has
hit the driver’s seat, too. Delphi took this to its logical—
and very SXSW-style—conclusion by announcing that it
would drive its autonomous vehicle all the way to the NY
Auto Show. We’ll be there to check it out—albeit behind a
sturdy crash barrier. And Uber, a big presence last week,
is another example of deprofessionalization in the digital
age (traditional taxis are going the way of travel agencies
and maybe the way doctors will soon, too), and the return
of the barter economy to everyday life. Self-driving cars...
self-treating patients...we really are returning to a barter
economy. Only this time, we’re betting our very lives.
Sandy Carter of IBM said, “I think every person needs
to be a change agent today.” Right. IBM. They’re the folks who
brought you, you know, the computer age? Well, they aren’t
slowing down. IBM’s AI wizard Watson may revolutionize
computing before the end of this decade. (And, Watson, if you’re
reading this, we think you’re great.) They’re proof-positive of
the barrenness of our conventional ideas about how innovation
happens. Innovation is often romanticized, with the image of a
genius working away in a dusty garage. We’ve always been in
an age where path-breaking innovation and lone genius must
come together with societal support to
create the next iteration of the future.
We forget that Xerox were forefathers
of the graphical user interface
and that they worked with DARPA to create the Internet. In
the post-Snowden era, the public-private partnership in the
tech space needs to be re-forged. Governments want to solve
problems (at least we hope they do!) and the solutions often
are found through innovation. But they also need the efficiency
of private companies to help get these solutions to scale.
you’re no channel
Retailers still need to adjust to the new-age customer journey. Jennifer Hyman,
co-founder and CEO of Rent The Runway, said last week that shopping malls and stores
need to innovate to be relevant, focusing on service or entertainment. They need to
offer an experience that one can’t get online. She suggested that stores should be like
massive customer service centers or distribution centers, quickly servicing problems.
“Buy online/on mobile, pick up in store” (BOPS) is in its infancy, but whoever perfects this
process will have a leg up. The stores of tomorrow will become the catalogs of today.
Each year in AR/VR technology development is like 12 years of development anywhere
else. It’s technological dog-years. It’s coming. Augmented and virtual reality is no longer just a
parlor trick; companies need to start seriously thinking about how they can leverage AR/VR as part
of their digital strategy and eventually their product or service delivery. Marriott used Oculus Rift to
create an incredible immersive selling experience that took potential guests on a ‘round the world
trip. At this point, it’s a great marketing stunt. But that’s where things always begin. What’s next?
Well, imagine a world where a consumer can be dropped into a room full of furniture and get the
details on a product simply by looking in its direction. Stop imagining it, and start preparing for it.
5 Innovation gets talked about a
lot at these things, and SXSW ’15 was
no different. But maybe it’s time for
SXSW itself to innovate a bit. It seems
as though the time of SXSW being a
mold-breaking event might be in the
rearview mirror. Now it’s a little more
like a mold-growing one. Do we need
panels on “how to succeed at social
media” anymore? Just as the Consumer
Electronics Show is no longer for industry
people and is now truly a consumer show,
SXSW may be best served re-inventing
itself back into a place for digital mass-
market adopters. Those people are now
over at the Mobile World Congress; a
movement that mirrors the platform
migration of media, content, and retail.